The Art of Seduction – Picasso’s Figures on a Beach

Figures au Bord de la MerPablo Picasso’s sexual desire was a driving force throughout his life and provided inspiration for the eroticism (both blatant and subtle) found in many of his works.

One of my favourite surrealist images, Figures au Bord de la Mer (usually known in English as Figures on the Beach), was painted in 1931, when Picasso was wrapped inside a love affair with a new muse – Croatian photographer, painter and poet Dora Maar.

The oil on canvas captures the figures’ insatiable appetite, as their mouths open wide to devour each other and tongues stretch out intently amid rows of small sharp teeth. Fiery hunger and determination mixes with the softness of the embrace – the same odd dichotomy of passion and gentleness as found in the ocean beyond. One can almost imagine the bodies rising and falling to the rhythm of the waves lapping the shoreline. Both figures are in ecstasy. The ‘female’ figure closes her eyes and beckons the pleasure, while the ‘man’s’ eyes remain open with concentrated intent.

Their form is sculptural, like rocks worn smooth over the years by the wind and sea. They are made one not only with each other but also with the natural environment. They exist moulded together in an entanglement of curved limbs, the breasts forming an unmistakably human centrepiece to the fluent shape. The bodies glow golden in the sunlight, while a small beach hut adds an almost comical domesticity to the scene.

I find the painting incredibly beautiful and powerfully erotic; however I struggled to find any commentary relating to it (where is Brian Sewell when one needs him?). I therefore welcome your comments, analyses, thoughts or feelings about the piece.

About Poetic Beauty

Passionate lover of beauty in all its forms, from the universal to the infinitesimal, with a desire to touch the hearts of all I encounter and share the beauty of life with others My art:
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5 Responses to The Art of Seduction – Picasso’s Figures on a Beach

  1. I love the way you broke down the image. I’m not a fan of his art but I agree with your comment about Picasso’s bullish driving force. I like him for his insatiable youthfulness, his “will to creativity” which is worth aspiring to. So many artists get weaker creatively , as they age. Personally I’m about to embark on figurative works inspired by Shunga art. In them I find a perfect combination of the base and the sublime.

  2. hmm on second thought thought I think Picasso may have been inspired by Shunga art- there’s something about the twisting, twining forms that are so akin- and the telling details ( very important to Shunga) that you picked out so well from the painting…

  3. Cat says:

    I think this style captures so wonderfully the effect that desire can have on our bodies- how we become fragmented, but also fit together; the paradox that as we become one, we are also split up into pieces, a bittersweet union.

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